‘It’s back with a bang’: fans flock to vegan showcase

Thousands attended the return of Melbourne's Big Vegan Market. Picture: Claudia Harvey
After two years of cancellations, the vegan market attracted thousands of people to check out everything from beard care to specialist teas. Claudia Harvey reports.

More than a hundred small businesses celebrating all things plant-based brought thousands of patrons to the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton for the annual Big Vegan Market earlier this month.

There wasn’t much missing from the range of products at the market, with plant-based alternatives for everything from cheese, to leather, to soap, being showcased.

Natural toothpaste maker Grants of Australia general manager Tammy Aronson Seligmann said she was excited to be back, after two years of cancellations during the pandemic.

“It’s amazing to see it coming back with a bang again, particularly in Melbourne when in this area it’s a huge movement,” Tammy said.

“We love talking to people, we love meeting our customers – it’s really fun for us to do something like this, as we don’t often get out and get to meet all the customers that buy our products, so yeah it’s great.”

'It's back with a bang': fans flock to vegan showcase
Aditi Rao was happy to attend as a maker. Picture: Claudia Harvey.

Aditi Rao, ceramicist and owner of Clay and Chai, was also excited to be a part of the market, having previously been only an attendee.

“I love the big vegan market. I’ve been here before Covid just as someone buying all the food and everything, so as soon as I saw that they were looking for people to have stalls, I was like, now that I kind of have this little baby business I really wanted to be part of it,” she said.

While there are many reasons people opt for a vegan lifestyle, Aditi said animal cruelty is the “biggest thing” motivating her plant-based living.

“I know that there’s heaps of reasons like environmental and health as well, but… for me, I don’t want to have anything to do with animal cruelty,” she said.

Liz, owner of skincare company La She Co, also attributed her vegan lifestyle to a love of animals.

“I’m a pet lover. My best friend that works with me every day and that comes with me on my morning tea walk is a little Frenchie, and she’s literally been my rock,” she said.

'It's back with a bang': fans flock to vegan showcase
Liz from La She Co leads a vegan lifestyle to avoid animal cruelty. Picture: Claudia Harvey.

“She’s helped me get through some really hard times and I just look at her and think, for anybody to be cruel to an animal…yeah, it’s [veganism] the way to go.”

Liz said everyone at the market seemed happy to be there. “It’s great to see everyone out and it’s buzzing. It’s got a really good vibe.”  

Oz Tea owner Farhad Hashemi said he’s most interested in the health benefits of veganism.

“I think from a health point of view, there are lots of benefits behind being vegan and having this sort of food rather than going and eating everything.”

'It's back with a bang': fans flock to vegan showcase
Chemical engineer and owner of Oz Tea values veganism primarily for its health benefits. Picture: Claudia Harvey.

“I’m a chemical engineer, and for me health is part of what I would like to do to educate myself and also other people. That’s why I started this business as my hobby, or second job I can call it, and my magic is mixing tea and herbal,” he said.

Beard and face care company Hemp Co owner Fran Power said she’d been “loving” the market.

“It’s been really good. Lots of beautiful friendly faces, such a good vibe, great to see people out again. It’s lovely.”

'It's back with a bang': fans flock to vegan showcase
Fran from Hemp Co was happy to see the community out and about at the Big Vegan Market. Picture: Claudia Harvey